11 September 2022

Who's Royal and Who's Not

 Across Europe, the "rules" for being royal vary widely. In most of the monarchies, there are clearly documented and followed laws and/or guidelines that define who has royal status as well as who is in the Line of Succession. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the most well-known and well-recognized monarchy is actually the one with the most confusing, broadest, and least well-followed. If you haven't been paying attention in the last few years, I'll give you a hint about which monarchy seems to be "winging" it from moment to moment: it's abbreviation is U.K. In the last 23 years, the British Royal Family has been adapting its own well-established guidelines on what, to some, seems to be a rather case-by-case basis. Before we get into the whys and wherefores of how this is actually a long-term strategic plan on the part of the brand new King Charles III, looks take a quick look at how it works in the other Kingdoms.

King Philippe and the next monarch
Elisabeth Duchess of Brabant
Photo by Michel Gronemberger,
Royal Palace, Brussels
BELGIUM
The most recently formed European monarchy, the Kingdom of the Belgians was formed in 1831 and implemented agnatic primogeniture succession plan. This meant that only males and only male-line descendants of King Leopold I could become King. Historically, this has been a fairly small dynasty, but it always managed to have such an heir even if he had to skip from uncle to nephew or brother to brother. This was finally changed in 1991 when cognatic primogeniture was introduced, allowing women to be eligible and for the line of succession to follow birth order. Eligibility was applied to living dynasts, but the order of succession was not retroactive. In practice, this meant that only the legitimate descendants of King Albert II are in the line. His illegitimate daughter Delphine is barred by being born out of wedlock even though the courts granted her and her children royal status in 2021. The children of King Leopold III by his second wife, a morganatic marriage, (my post about that marriage) are also barred from accession. Likewise the grandchildren in this line do not have royal status. Interestingly, Belgium is the only European monarchy that has an interregnum between monarchs. The new monarch does not accede until taking an oath before Parliament. In the other monarchies, accession happens immediately upon the death or abdication of the previous monarch. Royal titles are granted to all children and grandchildren of a monarch regardless of the gender of the child or the parent.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (center)
with her sisters, Queen Anne Marie
of Greece (left) and Princess Benedikte

Photo by Keld Navntoft, Kongehuset

DENMARK
In Denmark, the oldest monarchy in Europe at 1,000 years, women were previously banned from the succession until a 1953 referendum followed by a constitutional amendment gave women succession rights, although with preference for sons over daughters. It also limited the line of succession to descendants of King Christian X, effectively removing all the Greek royals, although they continue still use the titles of Prince or Princess of Greece AND Denmark, because a Danish prince had been created King of Greece in the 19th Century. (The former Greek king, however, is married to a Danish princess, so their children are nieces and nephews of the current monarch and included in royal events in Denmark. Since the Greek king's sister married a Spanish king, his kids are also first cousins of the current Spanish monarch.) In 1953, Danish King Frederik IX was the father of three daughters. The eldest, today's Queen Margrethe II, was 13 when she became the heir instead of her uncle Prince Knud. Gender-blind accession was introduced in 2009. Children of the monarch and the heir are royal highnesses. The children of the Queen's younger son have princely titles but are just Highnesses. The official members of the royal family are children of the monarch or male-line grandchildren. Therefore, Margrethe's sisters are members, but their children are not. Likewise, Uncle Knud's daughter, Princess Elisabeth, remained an official dynast until her death in 2018. Unlike in many of the other monarchies, none of the dynasts have been granted dukedoms or principalities.

King Willem Alexander and the next
monarch Amalia Princess of Orange

Photo by RVD - Martijn Beekman

THE NETHERLANDS

In the last 125 years, The Netherlands may have introduced the most changes to it succession rules and royal family definitions, mostly by necessity. When King Willem III's adult sons died with issue, there was a crisis as he only had left an infant daughter and girls were strictly banned. So they changed it to allow girls if there were no eligible male heirs. Thus, Wilhelmina became Queen as a child. She had an only child, another girl. Then her daughter had all daughters. Finally, Queen Beatrix had a trio of sons. (Here's my post about the Queen streak in the Netherlands.) Then, changing societal norms led the Dutch to adopt absolute primogeniture in 1983. Of course, Beatrix's oldest son, the current King Willem Alexander has a trio of daughters so no gender differentiation would have happened any way. One of the most interesting things about the Dutch monarchy is that it has severely limited who is in the Line of Succession to a very small list of people based on the proximity of blood kinship to the current monarch. Since they also have a well-established tradition of abdication, that means some people get dropped from the list every few decades. The proximity limits succession to the current monarch's children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces/nephews, and aunts/uncles. Cousins of the monarch are not included. Currently, there are only eight people in the line. His nieces by his late brother Prince Friso are not included because Floris and his wife did not receive official permission to marry. Royal titles have also changed. The grandchildren of Queen Juliana were all granted princely titles (if the parents received permission to marry) but the grandchildren of Queen Beatrix who were not in the direct line are styled as Count or Countess. It will be interesting to see what happens when King Willem Alexander's daughters start families, but that may be awhile since oldest is currently 18.


King Harald and the next two monarchs
Crown Prince Haakon and
Princess Ingrid Alexandra

Photo by  Kimm Saatvedt, Det kongelige hoff

NORWAY

Since the modern Norwegian monarchy was launched in 1905, it has the smallest royal family. For the first 24 years, it included only three people: King Haakon VII,  Queen Maud, and their only child Crown Prince Olav. Olav added a son and two daughters, but female-line grandchildren receive no titles and are not considered members of the royal family. So, when Olav died, the family had only grown to six people: Olav's three children, his daughter-in-law, and his son's two children. Agnatic primogeniture meant that female descendants were not in the line of succession. In 1971, male-preference cognatic primogeniture was adopted allowing women to accede if they had no brothers. This meant that the first child of King Harald, Princess Martha Louise, falls behind her little brother, Crown Prince Haakon. Agnatic primogeniture was adopted in 1990 but was not retroactive meaning that Haakon stays ahead of his big sister, but his first-born child Princess Ingrid Alexandra is ahead of her little brother. More recently, Norway further restricted royal status to only the heir and spouse and the heir's firstborn are styled as Royal Highnesses. The children of a monarch and the heir have princely titles, but they are styled simply has Highness. This change was retroactive impacting the current King's sister and daughter. So, Norway is now specifically planning for a very small royal family into the future. 

King Felipe & Queen Letizia
photo by Estela de Castro

SPAIN

Spain is now the only European kingdom that continues to use male-preference cognatic primogeniture. When the current King Felipe V's first child was a girl, there was some talk about changing the law to allow her accede even if she had a brother, but there was not a lot of political will behind it. When Felipe only had one other child, another girl, the discussion faded away. (Felipe himself has two older sisters.) Spain is an ancient kingdom with different extant claimants to the throne. However, after the monarchy was restored in 1975 after the dictatorship of General Franco, the legal line of succession was limited to the descendants of King Juan Carlos: so Felipe, his two sisters, and their offspring. Despite the male-preference succession, Juan Carlos granted dukedoms to his daughters and, by extension, their husbands. Early in his reign, King Felipe stripped his sister Infanta Cristina of her title as Duchess of Palma de Mallorca because she and her husband were under investigation for fraud, for which her husband later served prison time. His oldest daughter bares the heir's title as Princess of Asturias, which has been granted to the heir regardless of gender since the 1400s. However, many Princesses of the Asturias were stripped of the title upon the birth of little brothers, sometimes getting it back when the brother died young. (Here's my post about Princesses of Asturias.)

King Carl XVI Gustav and the next two
heirs Crown Princess Victoria and
Princess Estelle

Photo by Thron Ullberg/The Royal Court of Sweden

SWEDEN

In the late 19th and throughout most of the 20th Centuries, Sweden came close to ending its royal dynasty because of the strict succession rules put in place when the dynasty was established by Napoleon with his friend, Charles Jean Bernadotte as the new king. As in Norway a century later, the royal family consisted only of a King, Queen, and Crown Prince for many years. Over the decades, the family grew, but the dynasty was limited to male descendants. This created a few collateral branches of the family, but the branches sprouted mostly girls, bringing these royal lines to an end. The strict equal marriage rules also caused havoc as prince after prince refused to marry princesses and lost the right of accession for both themselves and any descendants. By 1973, when King Gustav VI Adolf was succeeded by his grandson, current King Carl XVI Gustav, there was only one person in line for the throne. His uncle Prince Bertil, who only remained eligible as a "spare" to the young king by denying himself marriage to his longtime girlfriend. The old king had also prevented the new king from marrying his lady love, another commoner. So, early in his reign Carl Gustav changed the dynastic rules. Soon both the new king and his aging Uncle Bertil were newlyweds. (Read about their wives in my post Royal Brides of Sweden.) Carl Gustav and his Queen Silvia had a daughter and then a son. When the government decided in 1980 to introduce not just female succession but to not implement male-preference, the King tried to get them to let his infant son maintain his position as Crown Prince, as would later happen in Norway. The Swedes, however, overruled him and the firstborn Victoria became Crown Princess. All of the King's children and grandchildren have also been given dukedoms and princely titles. His sisters are princesses but their children have no royal titles. Initially, the King made all of his descendants Royal Highnesses. Under pressure, however, to reduce the quickly growing Royal House, he removed the "Royal" style from the grandchildren by his two younger children. This change had no impact on the line of succession which includes all of his descendants but only his descendants as the 1980 changes did not apply to his sisters nor to the descendants to earlier princesses nor of the princes who had previously married commoners.

THE UNITED KINGDOM
[Deep breath] Now, back to the United Kingdom, which has so many layers of rules and traditions and restrictions that I wouldn't be surprised if members of the British Royal Family fully understand them themselves. We'll take a look first at succession, which is governed by Acts of Parliament. Then, we will move on to the question of who is and is not royal, which has preoccupied so much public discourse in recent years.

The "Slimmed Down Monarchy"? The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince of
Wales, Queen, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte,
Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis on the palace balcony
during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

UK SUCCESSION

The succession to the British throne is limited by several acts of Parliament. The monarch has no power to change the succession. He cannot remove anyone. He cannot add any one. He cannot skip any one. Over the years, people have asked me if I thought Charles would be the next king. The answer has always been "yes" because that is what the law says. So, for those who thought William should have succeeded Queen Elizabeth or think that either Prince Harry or Prince Andrew should be removed. Even if they wanted to (which I doubt they do), neither The Queen nor King Charles have the ability to do this.

The acts governing succession include:
The Bill of Right 1689 | Scottish Claim of Rights Act 1689
When the Catholic King James II fled the country in 1688, he was determined to have abandoned the throne for both himself and his newborn son. The next three people in line were Mary and Anne, his Protestant daughters by a previous wife, and his late sister's only son Prince William of Orange, who happened to be Mary's husband. Parliament offered the throne to William and Mary as joint monarchs. This legislation limited the succession first to any descendants of Mary and William, then to Anne and her descendants, then to any children William might have by another wife if Mary predeceased him (which she did). As it happened, none of three of them had children who survived childhood, so very soon, there was no one left in the line of succession. Prior to this, the monarchs did select their own successors, usually following agnatic primogeniture. Part of the Wars of the Roses was based on whether the descendants of an older son's daughter should come before the descendants of a younger son's son. The Tudors were particularly noteworthy for shifting around or waiting until the last minute to choose a successor.

Act of Settlement 1701
With no heirs for the widowed William or his sister-in-law Anne who succeeded him, Parliament tried to re-set the succession again. This time, they skipped over even more Catholic descendants of the Stuart and settled the Succession on Princess Sophia of the Palatinate and her descendants. She was a female-line granddaughter of the Stuart King James VI and I, who had succeeded the Tudor Queen Elizabeth I 100 years earlier. In addition to her Protestantism, Sophia, who had married the Elector of Hanover, had several healthy and a few grandchildren to her credit. From this point, all Catholics and anyone who married a Catholic, and anyone who was not in communion with the Church of England (by then firmly Protestant) was barred from the Line of Succession. Succession continued to follow male-preference primogeniture, with all sons and their descendants moving ahead of any daughters and their descendants. The Hanoverians were quite prolific. Three centuries later, Electress Sophia of Hanover has about 6,000 living descendants. There is no official list of everyone but it would take quite a massacre for the person at the end of the line to make it to the throne.

Succession to the Crown Act 2013
In 2013, the UK and the other dominions who share the British monarch as Head of State, at last adopted gender-neutral accession. This was not applied retroactively to women who were already in the line of succession. For instance, Anne Princess Royal did not suddenly jump forward six places ahead of her younger brothers and their children. Princess Charlotte of Wales, born in 2015, is the first royal girl to not be supplanted by the birth of a younger brother. (There is a story that, as a child, Queen Elizabeth II used to pray that her parents would give her a brother so she wouldn't have to be the monarch.)

So, who is in the Line of Succession, today?
Upon the accession of King Charles III, the first seven people in the line are his descendants. First his oldest son William Prince of Wales and his three children in birth order followed by his second son Prince Harry Duke of Sussex and his two children. The next 16 are the other descendants of Queen Elizabeth II. The next six are the additional descendants of King George VI via the late Princess Margaret. Then, there are 33 additional male-line descendants of King George V. In this part of the line, three people are skipped because they are confirmed Catholics but Prince Michael of Kent, whose wife is Catholic, was restored to the line by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013. After that the line moves to the descendants of Mary Princess Royal and Louise Princess Royal before shifting over to the King of Norway. Although other monarchies specifically bar the sovereign of a foreign state, the UK does not. So, if about 100 very specific people die and/or convert to Catholicism, King Harald of Norway could also become King of the United Kingdom, thanks to his British grandmother. The monarch, ex-monarchs, and claimants of Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Romania, Yugoslavia, Germany, and Russia are also in the line. The Spanish royals are descended from Electress Sophia, so they could get in line if they leave the Catholic Church. 

Governing UK Royal Titles

Traditionally, children have derived their titles from their fathers. In the many centuries that monarch's daughters married kings and princes, there was no need for princesses to transmit royal status or titles to their children. The princesses married into another royal house, and their children had titles from that royal family. However, these styles and honors are given or withheld at the pleasure of the monarch. 

This wasn't a particularly big deal until Queen Victoria had a particularly big family. With her plethora of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to marry off, Victoria decided Serene Highnesses and members of the nobility were suitable spouses. The princesses still got to be princesses and initially there weren't any offspring who weren't at least princelings. That is until her granddaughter Princess Louise of Wales married the Earl Fife, a Scottish peer. Victoria gave him a bump in status making him the 1st Duke of Fife but their children were a marquess and two ladies. No problem for Victoria. When she was succeeded by her son King Edward VIII in 1901, he did not like the fact that any of his grandchildren did not have princely titles, so he fixed it by granting Louise, his eldest daughter, the title Princess Royal and making her surviving children HH Princess Alexandra of Fife and HH Princess Louise of Fife. His son and heir King George V had an opposite point of view. He thought the British Royal House, which was under criticism for being too German in the midst of World War I, also had two many princelings and princesses hanging about. So, in addition to changing the name of the royal family to the House of Windsor, he issued the 1917 Letters Patent. He didn't deprive his nieces or any of his cousins of their titles, but he certainly didn't mind if the ladies, like Maud of Fife, relinquished them when they married men who weren't themselves royals. 

1917 Letters Patent
In order to limit the quickly expanding number of British royals, King George V issued Letters Patent (a document issued by a monarch to grant a right) in 1917. This document says that the following people were entitled to royal status (HRH) and princely titles:

  • the children of a monarch
  • the male-line grandchildren of monarch (so not the children of Princesses of the Blood)
  • the oldest son of the oldest son of the Prince of Wales 
Easy, peasy. Crystal clear so everyone could understand. No problem, right? Wait about a century...

1990s Way Ahead Group
In the wake of the fire at Windsor Castle, three divorces among Queen Elizabeth's children, and questions about how to finance the Royal Family and the Monarchy, senior royals and advisers formed the Way Ahead Group to strategize how to modernize for the future. Greatly influenced by the future (now current) king Charles, the issue of titles and royal status quickly came to the forefront. Charles was (and likely still is) in agreement with his great-grandfather that too many royal princes and princesses can create a burden and provide more opportunities for public scrutiny and criticism. For some time, there even seemed to be a question of whether his brother Prince Andrew's daughters would keep their status. They did, but they were also relegated to the awkward position of being non-working royals. In the meantime, Charles' youngest brother Prince Edward, who did not marry until 1999, was satisfied to take on a kind of half-in, half-out status while he and his wife focused primarily on pursuing private careers. At the time of their wedding, three relevant items were announced:
  • Queen Elizabeth created him The Earl of Wessex
  • his children would not be styled according the 1917 Letters Patent as male-line grandchildren of a monarch but as children of an Earl
  • in the fullness of time (basically after the deaths of both of his parents), he would be created The Duke of Edinburgh

No royal duties for Prince Andrew's children and no duties or even royal titles for Prince Edward's offspring. However, no new Letters Patent regarding either situation was ever issued. Hence, many people (including me) have made the case that all four of these grandchildren are entitled to these titles. We even hoped fruitlessly that Edward's oldest child would start using "her" royal title when she turned 18 in 2021. She didn't and we all cried into our tea cups. 

The Slimmed Down Monarchy
All of this ties into the so-called "Slimmed Down Monarchy" apparently favored by the new King. He sees that the entirely sober and sensible system introduced in 1917 has grown too unwieldy with royal grandchildren of King George V still carrying out royal duties today in their 70s and 80s and receiving financial support for those duties while sitting as far away from the throne as #56 in the Line of Succession. Most people don't even know these first cousins of our dearly departed Queen exist. Granting fewer royal titles and styles means in the future, there will be a small number of Royal Highnesses, positioned very near the throne, supporting the monarch. Meanwhile the people who are by no means every going to get near acceding to the Crown, won't be wondering whether to put HRH on their cubicles as they take up 9 to 5 jobs in the City to support themselves.

2012 Letters Patent
In anticipation of the first child of the first son of the Prince of Wales in 2012, Queen Elizabeth issued Letters Patent to tweak that third item from her grandfather's 1917 Letters Patent. By this time, it was clear that male-preference primogeniture was going to end soon (see Accession to the Crown Act 2013 above). This would mean that if Prince William's first child was a girl, she would be the next monarch after him, even if she had a younger brother. However, under the 1917 rules, she would not have a royal title, but her younger brother (as the first son) would. To correct this situation, the Queen's Letter Patent granted royal status and titles to any children born to Prince William. It did not go further to preemptively grant equal status for any potential future children of his brother Prince Harry. Without such guidance and in the absence of any additional Letters Patent or statement, this means that Harry's children did not have a claim to royal status while they were merely great-grandchildren of the monarch, but under 1917 rules, could have it when they became the grandchildren of the monarch as they did with accession of King Charles III. Why did they leave this issue open when they could have easily clarified it in 2012 or when Harry married or even when Charles acceded. The short answer: to drive me crazy and make everyone angry. Just kidding. Kinda. Seriously, the reasons for this oversight or strategy or nefarious act of evil (depending on your point of you), could be many.

In a Nutshell
Royal status and titles are entirely within the gift of the current monarch. Titles of nobility (like Duke of York or Duke of Sussex, as not-so-random examples) cannot be simply removed once granted as these are then governed by Parliament and can only be removed by Parliament. On the other hand, the monarch can grant an HRH (Philip 1947), withhold it (Wallis 1936), and take it away (Diana and Sarah 1992). The monarch can also decide who is and who is not a prince or princess. So, it is within King Charles III's authority to make all of his grandchildren (or none of them) royal. And, as much as I wish he would have Archie and Lili use royal titles, here are the reasons why I think he won't:
  • Prince Edward's children don't use royal titles.
  • Throughout their lives, Archie (currently #6) and Lili (#7) will move further and further down the line of succession, making them less and less relevant to the functioning of the Monarchy. (The current Duke of Gloucester was born at #6 and is now at #30.) 
  • Their parents previously declined to use the courtesy titles afforded to them as the children of a Duke, by which Archie would be The Earl of Dumbarton and his sister Lady Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor.
  • If Charles intended Harry's children to have royal titles, the easiest time to have made such an announcement would have been the 2012 Letters Patent, which could have extended royal status to all future grandchildren of Charles Prince Wales instead of just to the children of William Duke of Cambridge.
  • The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are no longer working royals and are not even living in the United Kingdom. Their children can lead far more normal lives without titles.
I could be wrong -- it happens -- but I think the title conversation was had decades ago and, while it may have been discussed again more recently, the issue is settled. King Charles III will lead the way for William to inherit a slimmed down monarchy with far, far fewer extra princes and princesses hanging about for the public to worry about funding and the media to hound. King George V would approve.






10 September 2022

8 Things You Don't Know About the Queen's Death

 

Photo by Elli Gerra via Wikimedia Commons

On the 8th of September, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom passed away having served as sovereign for 70 years. A fixed point in Britain, in the Commonwealth, and around the world for so long that few people remember any other British monarch, she nevertheless remains an enigma. Always unflappable, her often stoic public face belied a woman of warmth with a great sense of humor. In her later years, that warmth began to exude more and more publicly in the form of a ready smile that was absent in her younger years when she was likely seeking to be taken seriously. She was, after all, only 25 and poorly educated when she was thrust upon the world's stage. Thousands of words and hours of programming are being filled with information (often repetitive) about her during this period of official mourning. I thought we'd take a different tack and focus on some points you might not yet have heard.

1. She is the first Queen Regnant to die in 121 years.
The last reigning queen to pass away while still on the throne was her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, who died in 1901 after a reign of 63 years that began when she was barely 18 years old. There have been two other queens who have passed away since then: Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands and her daughter Queen Juliana. However, both of them had abdicated their thrones and reassumed the title of Princess by the time of their deaths. Juliana's daughter Beatrix also abdicated. She is still alive today and is still beloved as Princess Beatrix. The modern Dutch royals have made abdication a tradition. One other Queen Regnant still reigns in Europe, Denmark's Queen Margrethe II, whose 50th Jubilee celebrations have been toned down in these first days after Elizabeth's passing in a sign of Margrethe's deep respect for her distant cousin. In the past, female monarchs have been rare. In the future, they will be quite common. The next monarchs in Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, and Sweden are all female. Meanwhile the #2 monarchs-in-waiting in both Sweden and Norway are also female. The future King William and King George may be in the minority among their fellow monarchs.

Embed from Getty Images

2. She is NOT the longest reigning monarch.
Though much lauded as the longest-reigning monarch in British history when she surpassed Queen Victoria in 2015, Queen Elizabeth is only the second longest-reigning monarch in history. That record is still held by King Louis XIV of France who ascended to the throne when he was only four but grew up to become Europe's most imitated monarch. The Queen was 625 days short of breaking his record. She only moved into second place a few months before her death when she surpassed Thailand's King Rama IX, who had become king at age 19 shortly after World War II. He was four and a half years younger than Elizabeth. As for the British record, she is two days short of seven years ahead of Queen Victoria. The number three spot is held by Victoria's grandfather King George III (63 years). Neither the new King Charles III nor his son the new Prince of Wales (William) are likely to come near the top three.

3. Her place as longest reigning current monarch is ceded to a sultan.
With Queen Elizabeth's death, the new longest reigning current monarch is the 76-year-old Sultan of Brunei. He succeeded upon his father's abdication in 1967, when he was just 21. He is two years older than King Charles III. The next longest reigning current monarch is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who became Queen in 1972 upon her father's death. Interestingly, like Queen Elizabeth II, she was not expected to inherit the throne when she was born. (For more about that and other similarities, check out my post, Two Queens: Daisy and Lilibet.) Most of the other European monarchs are way down the list, with the sovereigns of Luxembourg, Monaco, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium having ascended in this century. 

4. She is the third British monarch to die outside of England.
To be fair, one of these, the former King Edward VIII really doesn't count as he had abdicated his throne almost 36 years before his death in exile in France. He was The Queen's uncle and it was his decision to step down that brought her father King George VI, her, and ultimately her descendants to the throne. (Read my post about him and his American wife, The Wedding No Royal Would Attend.) That means the last British monarch to die outside of England was her great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather King George I, who was born and died in his native Hanover, which is now part of Germany. He had come to the throne by an Act of Parliament when the Protestant line of the House of Stuart died out. The Catholic-phobic Brits drew up the Act of Settlement 1701, a law that skipped over all of the Catholics ahead of George's mother Sophia in the Line of Succession. The ban against Catholics on the British thrones remains in place today three centuries later. Sophia died shortly before Queen Anne and the very Germanic George was forced to move to Britain, but returned to Hanover as often as he could. The monarch can be married to a Catholic, but that 1701 ban was only reversed by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, bringing several of the Queen's extended family members back into the Line of Succession.

5. She is the first monarch to die in Scotland since 1542.
The last time a sovereign died in Scotland was when King James V of Scotland died in Fife of an unknown illness after losing the Battle of Solway Moss. He was succeeded by his infant daughter Mary Queen of Scots. James' mother was the English Princess Margaret Tudor. So six decades later, when Margaret's unmarried niece Queen Elizabeth I died, it was James' grandson by Mary, King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. The thrones were a personal union under one monarch for just over a century. The two countries were formerly united as the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 and then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now just Northern Ireland) in 1801.

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6. She was the most Scottish monarch since the House of Stuart.
Although many still call the House of Windsor a "German" dynasty because of its origins in the House of Hanover (see #3 above.), Queen Elizabeth II had significant Scottish heritage. Her mother, remembered today as The Queen Mother was born as Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, youngest daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. As such, The Queen spent much of her early life at the Strathmore seat of Glamis Castle, where her younger sister Princess Margaret was born. Nearly every summer of her life, including the last one, she spent at Balmoral Castle, a home built by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert because the Scottish Highlands reminded them of Albert's homeland in Germany. The Queen and her family enjoyed the isolation of this Scottish estate, which is personally owned by the monarch and is not a crown property. Although there are public hiking trails and holiday rentals on the estate, the family rarely encounters strangers there. However, there is one famous story about a pair of American tourists who asked her and a companion for directions one day and asked if she lived nearby. When they asked if she had met The Queen, she replied, "I haven't, but he has!"

7. Her memorial plans are different because she died in Scotland.
London Bridge has been the well-known code name for The Queen's funeral plans for decades. Hence, the hashtag #LondonBridgeIsDown is about her death, not the nursery rhyme or the iconic landmark. Operation London Bridge includes all of the details and timelines for the transportation of the body, the various rites and ceremonies, the lying-in-state, public viewings, the funeral, and entombment. However, because she died in Scotland, another long-planned set of rituals, called Operation Unicorn, was triggered. Likely adopted because The Queen spends at least 25% of the year in Scotland, Unicorn runs concurrently with London Bridge. While the accession (under another plan called Operation Spring Tide) and other plans are moving forward n London and around the Kingdom, Unicorn makes special consideration for Scotland and the Scottish people. The main component called for her body to be conveyed to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, her official residence in the Scottish capitol of Edinburgh, from whence her late husband's title was derived. She will lie in repose there followed by a service in St. Giles Cathedral. Then, instead of being flown to London, as would have happened if she had died elsewhere in the world, she will be taken by train back to the capitol of the United Kingdome.

8. We don't know how she died.
Although speculation runs rife, we have not been provided the official cause of The Queen's death. I've seen rumors ranging from a fall to a heart attack, from a stroke to cancer. It is clear that her health had been rather fragile for the last year and especially earlier this summer when her doctors advised her to refrain from attending some of her Diamond Jubilee events. However, she continued to attend to the Royal Boxes of government business during her last week and even received the outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers just days before she passed. It is clear from the timing and language of the various announcements on the last two days of her life that something happened rather abruptly that led to relatively quick decline. Having said that, whatever the cause, it is not at all unusual for someone at the age of 96. As for me, I am grateful that she apparently did not suffer a long and terrible illness before her death. But, even that could be wrong. We may not know the actual medical cause of her death for quite some time.


15 June 2022

Double Dynastic Debacle

Princess Helen of Greece
Bain News Service via Wikimedia Commons

Royal romance was sweeping through the troubled Balkans in 1921. The beautiful Princess Helen of Greece had agreed to marry the dashing Crown Prince Carol of Romania. Despite his reputation as a playboy -- he had already fathered illegitimate children and married then divorced a woman of lower status -- he seemed to offer some stability, or at least his throne did. Helen was living in Switzerland with her often exiled family when Carol, his mother Queen Marie and his sisters came to celebrate the engagement of Helen's oldest brother 
Crown Prince George to Carol's oldest sister Princess Elisabetha A longtime admirer of Elisabetha, George had often tried to woo the princess. Both families were pleased when the usually disinterested Elisabetha actually accepted his proposal. A pair of royal weddings was soon announced. 

Elisabetha and George married first in Bucharest, Romania in February. Then, the mass of interwoven royal relatives relocated to Athens, where George and Helen's father had only recently been reinstated as King. The second royal wedding of the year took place there on March between Helen and Carol. 

Elisabetha's adoption into her new husband's family did not go well. Neither they nor she made much of an effort to get along. The family often spoke Greek in front of her, which was certainly a slight. It didn't help that she was doing little to learn the language. Elisabetha did not have many sterling qualities to win them over. Even her own mother, the former Princess Marie of Edinburgh, was not a great admirer. Elisabetha had been a beautiful little girl, but she grew less and less attractive. She studied art in Paris for a short time, but she lacked social style and was not affectionate by nature. Her little sister Maria, future Queen of Yugoslavia, note, "Mamma thinks her decidedly dull." A terrible sin in comparison to her sparkling, dramatic, beautiful, and hardworking mother. Queen Marie characterized Elisabetha as narcissistic, cold, and joyless.

Helen, on the other hand, was beloved within her family and welcomed warmly by her husband's family in Romania.

Princess Elisabetha of Romania
George Grantham Bain Collection via Wikimedia Commons

Like many royal and noble young women, both Helen and Elisabetha had trained as nurses during World War I. Elisabetha, however, often was absent from her duties due to some claimed illness or another. She also suffered criticism due to her alleged weight issues. Queen Marie later wanted to send her to a sanatorium not so much for her nerves but because
 "she WILL not understand how fat she is".

By the summer of 1922, the newly married Elisabetha had fallen so physically ill that no one could think she was just being lazy. She had contracted typhoid and then pleuriscy. Her parents went to Greece to bring her back to Bucharest to recover. When her hair began to fall out, it was cut short and she dyed it red. She began applying makeup that heightened her sickly, "ghostlike appearance".

In September, yet another Greek military defeat led to yet another Greek military revolt and sent King Constantine back into exile. Elisabetha's husband became King George II. Although she was unprepared to be queen so young and still recovering her health, she started off well by helping resettle Greeks who were fleeing Turkey. However she really had no love for Greece, for her role, or for her husband. She had made no friends in her new country and she was still refusing to have a child. Added to that, King George was really just a military puppet.

Fifteen months later, when the Greek throne was once again dismantled, Elisabetha and George were invited to spend their exile in Romania. Her parents set them up in a wing of the royal palace Cotroceni. After a while, they found their own residence, where he grew increasingly bored and where she spent much of her time gambling and eating cake. Elisabetha temporarily escaped by traveling to Yugoslavia following the birth of her younger sister's baby. Now Queen Maria of Yugoslavia, little sister was not happy to see her. Their mother sent Elisabetha away after she flirted one too many times with her brother-in-law King Alexander. Having been stripped of all of their properties in Greece, the couple added financial stress to their already troubled relationship. When Elisabetha started an affair with his banker, the marriage was all but over. George spent more and more time away, eventually moving to London. They finally divorced in 1935. Neither remarried. He returned to Greece as King in 1935 and remained until his death at age 56 in 1947.

The Greek Royal Family with Helen in the back row.
By Carl Boehringer via Wikimedia Commons

Nicknamed Sitta, Princess Helen was a tall brunette considered pretty and refined as expected of a princess. She grew up in a relatively tight-knit family. Even when she and three of her siblings were sent to school at Eastbourne in England, their mother Sophie, formerly a princess of Prussia, would come to stay for the summer. First she would visit her British royal cousins at Windsor and then settle in at the Grand Hotel near her children.

Greece, however, was a turbulent country continually engaged in military conflicts during this period. Nevertheless, in the first World War, Greece remained neutral. Instead of peace, however, this stance made them a target from both sides. When Helen was 20, French and British troops landed in Athens. They bombarded the city, including the Royal Palace from their nearby ships. Queen Sophie, Helen, her baby sister Katherine and the women of the palace had to shelter in the cellar for three hours. The ongoing barrage prompted Helen's father, King Constantine, to write a letter to his first cousin King George V in the United Kingdom. "I entreat you," he begged, "do not push us to despair, I have never harbored any plots against you and your allies." A three-week blockade left the royal family with only days worth of food. In the streets, people were dying from starvation and disease. The French insisted that they would only relent if King Constantine left the country and the British stood by the French, even though Queen Sophie was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Helen remarked, "it was as though some dear, trusted friend had cold-bloodedly pushed a dagger in one's back."

It was this event that led to the family's exile in Switzerland while her second brother King Alexander was placed on the throne and left alone without any of his family in Greece, where their Romanian cousins later visited them sparking the double engagements. The Greek royals were in mourning for King Alexander when Carol made his proposal to Helen. The young king had died after being bitten by a monkey. The family was being summoned back to Greece, but Helen could not bear the thought of returning to the place where they had suffered so much. Queen Sophie advised Helen to decline. Besides Carol's terrible reputation, she thought the pair were poorly suited, and she didn't want her daughter to go away from her so soon after losing her son Alexander. Helen later regretted that she had not followed her mother's advice, writing, "I would have been spared years of misery." Queen Sophie's cousin Queen Marie also saw that the young couple had very different personalities, but she hoped the steadfast and reliable Helen would be Carol's savior. Even she later regretted the match, telling Helen that she and Carol should have never met, comparing her son to a disaster from which Helen could never recover.

Nevertheless, the wedding went forward in Athens in March after their siblings' wedding in Bucharest in February. By the time, Carol and Helen returned to Romania for their official welcome, Helen was already pregnant. Their son Michael was born in October on the first anniversary of King Alexander's death. Queen Marie was at her daughter-in-law's side as Helen struggled through a difficult delivery. The early birth meant that Helen's own mother was not there as both baby and new mother nearly died. Queen Sophie arrived a week later. Sophie stayed for a while as Helen recovered. Since Helen and Carol's home was being remodeled, she took her daughter and baby grandson back to Greece to continue their convalescence. The next year, King Constantine was forced to abdicate again. Helen and Michael dashed to Italy to be with them. In January 1923, Constantine suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. "Mama's state simply breaks my heart," Helen wrote to Carol. "I could not possibly leave her just now." Instead Helen brought Sophie back to Romania with her.

This frequent togetherness with her family -- in Greece, in Italy, and in Romania -- set a pattern that Carol did not like. He called it a "crowded marriage." He added to the crowd, while Helen was away, by starting an affair with Elena "Magda" Lupescu. Sexy and vibrant (or vulgar and crude depending on your point of view), the tall redhead was the opposite of Helen. Having already married and been forced to give up an earlier "inappropriate" marriage to Zizi Lambrino, Carol was unwilling to surrender his own desires to the Crown much less to the wife from home he had grown increasingly distant. 

Helen with young Michael
via Wikimedia Commons

In 1925, barely four years after marrying Helen, Carol ran off to Italy to live with Magda. Ever dutiful, Helen offered to go to Italy and bring him back, but her father-in-law King Ferdinand prevented her. Ferdinand had had enough of his son shirking his duties and running off over the years. Carol proposed his own solution to the problem: he begged his family to just pretend he had died in an automobile accident. They declined and the government forced Carol to surrender his rights as heir to the throne in honor of his young son Michael. With King Ferdinand's death in 1927, six-year-old Michael became king with his uncle Nicholas as regent. Helen was recognized as Princess Mother of Romania.  

Carol was not done with them yet. In 1930, with changing political winds, he returned to Romania and was declared King, displacing a confused young Michael. The new prime minister encouraged Helen to take him back. Drawing on what Carol's mother called Helen's "quiet dignity ... golden heart [and] forgiving disposition", Helen reluctantly agreed. Carol, however, refused and blamed Helen for their divorce. Filled with spite, he placed her under surveillance, surrounded her home with police, and severely limited her access to their son. Within two years, he forced Helen out of Romania and summoned Madga to his side. Helen joined her mother in Florence, later buying her own villa there. He only permitted Michael to visit her there twice a year and allowed Helen to come to Romania for Michael's birthdays. 

This went on for nearly a decade before Carol was deposed. Having tried to play both sides against the middle in World War II, Carol finally declared Romania for the Axis powers. However, he was still making too friendly overtures to France on the Allied side for Hitler's liking. Carol, who had already been forced to cede significant territory to Russia now ceded more to Hitler in order to guarantee the safety of the rest of country. By this time, the Romanian government had had enough and Carol was forced to abdicate. The now 18-year-old Michael was restored to the throne. Helen was able to return to his side and the two of them tried to do what they could to thwart growing Nazi hegemony in the country. Helen worked to prevent the deportation of Jews and convinced the prime minister to provide food, clothing, and medical aid to the ghettos and camps. Due to her efforts she was later recognized by the nation of Israel with their honor as "Righteous Among Nations". 

Despite their efforts, Michael was increasingly stymied by the government and their Nazi handlers. The monarchy survived the war but the nation was soon overwhelmed by communism. He was basically a figurehead and constantly at odds with the communist leaders, frequently refusing to do their bidding. When he returned from London after attending the wedding of his cousins Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) and Prince Philip, he was forced to abdicate and the monarchy was abolished. He was not allowed to return for more than four decades. Since his death in 2017, the oldest of his five daughters Crown Princess Margareta has been officially recognized by the Romanian government with the title Custodian of the Crown. 

As for Carol, he married Magda in 1947 and died six years later. Michael refused to attend his funeral. 

Helen returned to her villa in Florence, welcoming family there when she wasn't traveling and pursuing her interests in Renaissance art and architecture. In her later years, suffering from failing health and financial problems, she moved to an apartment in Switzerland, not far from Michael's home with his family. She eventually moved in with them just before her death at the age of 86.

Elisabetha
By Philip de Laszlo via Wikimedia Commons

And lest we forget Queen Elisabetha, whom we left happily divorced in the 1930s, she made a home and reputation for herself back in Romania. When her brother Carol was restored to the throne, she took on the role of First Lady. She was the only person in the family who accepted Magda's role in his life. Through inheritance and financial advice from her lover, she grew quite wealthy and enjoyed her life at the head of the nation. In the early years of Michael's second reign, she kept her head low. By 1944, however, she was readily conspiring with the Communists against him, earning the moniker "Red Aunt." She even consorted with Marshal Tito who had deposed another of her child-king nephews, King Peter II of Yugoslavia. To round out her grand slam of familial betrayals, she even financially supported the guerilla war against her ex-brother-in-law King Paul of Greece. 

Elisabetha's support for the Communists was not reciprocated in the end. When they abolished the monarchy in 1947, she was given three days to pack up and a train to leave on. She ultimately landed in France and fell in love with a young artist, whom she later adopted. She died in 1956.


WORKS CONSULTED

Bloks, Moniek. "Righteous Among Nations - Queen Mother Helen of Romania." History of Royal Womenhttps://www.historyofroyalwomen.com/helen-of-greece-and-denmark/righteous-among-nations-queen-mother-helen-romania/ Accessed 3 March 2021

Gelardi, Julia. Born to Rule. St. Martin's Griffin, 2005.


O'Donnell, Stephen. "Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark." Gods and Foolish Grandeur20 April 2014. https://godsandfoolishgrandeur.blogspot.com/2014/04/princess-helen-of-greece-and-denmark.html Accessed 1 March 2021.

Pakula, Hannah. The Last Romantic. Simon & Schuster, 1985.


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